Woman of the Century/Lucy Larcom

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LARCOM, Miss Lucy, poet and author, born in Beverly, Mass., in 1826. Her father was a sea-captain, who died while she was a child, and her mother, taking with her this daughter and two or three others of her younger children, removed to Lowell, Mass. LUCY LARCOM A woman of the century (page 458 crop).jpgLUCY LARCOM. The year 1835 found Lucy, a girl of about ten years, in one of the Lowell grammar schools, where her education went on until it became necessary for her to earn her living, which she began to do very early as an operative in a cotton factory. In her "Idyl of Work" and also in "A New England Girlhood" Miss Larcom has described her early life. In the "Idyl" the mill-life of forty or fifty years ago is portrayed, and, in following the career of some of those bright spirits, watching their success in their varied pathways through life, it is very pleasant to know that the culture, the self-sacrifice and the effort begun in that hard school have developed characters so noble and prepared them so well for their appointed life-work. Her biographer writes: "My first recollection of Miss Larcom is as a precocious writer of verse in the Lowell 'Casket,' and that the editor in his notice of them said 'they were written under the inspiration of the nurses, a misprint, of course, for muses; although, as the author was only ten or twelve years old at that time, the mistake was not so very far wrong. That was not Miss Larcom's first attempt at verse-making, for she began to write while a child of seven in the attic of her early home in Beverly." Miss Larcom's first work as a Lowell operative was in a spinning-room, doffing and replacing the bobbins, after which she tended a spinning-frame and then a dressing-frame, beside pleasant windows looking towards the river. Later she was employed in a "cloth-room," a more agreeable working-place, on account of its fewer hours of confinement, its cleanliness and the absence of machinery. The last two years of her Lowell life, which covered in all a period of about ten years, were spent in that room, not in measuring cloth, but as book-keeper, recording the number of pieces and bales. There she pursued her studies in intervals of leisure. Some text-books in mathematics, grammar, English or German literature usually lay open on her desk, awaiting a spare moment. The Lowell "Offering," a magazine whose editors and contributors were "female operatives in the Lowell mills," was published in 1842, and soon after Miss Larcom became one of its corps of writers. One of her first poems was entitled "The River," and many of her verses and essays, both grave and gay, may be found in its bound volumes. Some of those Lowell "Offering" essays appeared afterwards in a little volume called "Similitudes." That was her first published work. Since then Lucy Larcom's name has found an honored place among the women poets of America. Of late her writings have assumed a deeply religious tone, in which the faith of her whole life finds complete expression. Among her earlier and best-known poems are " Hannah Binding Shoes," and "The Rose Enthroned," Miss Larcom's earliest contribution to the "Atlantic Monthly," when the poet Lowell was its editor, a poem that in the absence of signature was attributed to Emerson by one reviewer; also "A Loyal Woman's No." which is a patriotic lyric and attracted considerable attention during the Civil War. It is such poems as those, with her "Childhood Songs," which will give the name of Lucy Larcom high rank. During much uf her earlier life Miss Larcom was teacher in some of the principal young women's seminaries of her native State. While "Our Young Folks" was published, she was connected with it, part of the time as associate, and part of the time as leading editor. She has written at length of her own youthful working-days in Lowell in an article published in the "Atlantic Monthly," about 1881, entitled "Among Lowell Mill Girls. Of late she has turned her attention more to prose writing. "A New England Girlhood" describes the first twenty to twenty-five years of her own life. Miss Larcom has always been inclined to write on religious themes, and has made two volumes of compilations from the world's great religious thinkers, "Breathings of the Better Life" (Boston, 1866) and "Beckonings" (Boston. 1886). Her last two books, "As it is in Heaven " (Boston, 1891) and "The Unseen Friend" (Boston, 1892), embody much of her own thought on matters concerning the spiritual life. Her poems have been collected in a volume of Household Series of the poets.